Hawai’i is on the wrong track in trying to require state-level labeling of food products to indicate if any ingredients were derived from plants produced with genetic engineering, according to the state’s attorney general. The bill runs afoul of federal law and policy and would “very likely be found unconstitutional” if challenged in court, the opinion said.
“There is no basis in fact or in the federal misbranding laws to require what would amount to a GMO ‘warning’ label,” said an opinion approved by Attorney General David M. Louie. The bill has passed the House and is pending in the Senate. The legislature failed to state “any purpose at all” for the bill, which makes it almost impossible to defend in federal court, he warned. The opinion added that food labeling is basically preempted by the FDA, which specifically opposes mandatory GMO labeling. Precedent from other cases shows that the bill would likely fail in the courts, the opinion added.
“Any state effort (regardless of how well-intentioned) to require labeling that is inconsistent with federal law, particularly where the veracity and relevance of the information sought to be mandated remain a matter of contention at the federal level, will be met with great skepticism in federal court,” Louie warned. Read the letter here.
Some people claim that genetic modification, as it is practiced in agriculture today, produces plants that are substantially different from plants that were produced by conventional breeding. Biotech supporters say the technique is precise and limited, so the resulting plants are no different except for the targeted changes (such as insect resistance). Now a thorough review of the scientific literature shows that biotech indeed works as intended. “Suspect unintended compositional effects that could be caused by genetic modification have not materialized,” the authors say. Read more.
For the first time since the introduction of biotech crops almost two decades ago, developing countries grew biotech crops on more land than in industrialized countries in 2012, according to a report released on February 20 by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA).
Developing nations planted 52% of the global biotech crops in 2012, up from 50% a year earlier and higher than the 48% that industrial countries grew last year. Last year, the growth rate for biotech crops was more than three times as fast and five times as large in developing countries - 11% or 8.7 million hectares (21.5 million acres) in developing countries, versus 3% or 1.6 million hectares, (3.95 million acres) in industrial countries.
“This year’s ISAAA report adds increasing evidence that agricultural biotechnology is a key component in sustainable crop production,” said Dr. Cathleen Enright, executive director of the Council for Biotechnology Information. “When you look at the rising number of acres of biotech crops planted each year, it can’t be denied that biotech crops are delivering value to more and more growers around the world.”
Other highlights of the ISAAA report include:
- Last year marked an unprecedented 100-fold increase in total biotech crop hectarage to 170 million hectares, up from 1.7 million in 1996 - when biotech crops were first commercialized.
- In 2012, a record 17.3 million farmers around the world grew biotech crops. This was an increase of 600,000 from 2011. Over 90%, or over 15 million farmers, were small resource-poor farmers in developing countries.
- China, India, Brazil, Argentina and South Africa, which together represent approximately 40% of the global population, grew 78.2 million hectares (or 46%) of global biotech crops in 2012. The United States continued to be the lead country with 69.5 million hectares, with an average of 90% adoption across all crops.
- While 28 countries planted commercialized biotech crops in 2012, an additional 31 countries totaling 59 have granted regulatory approvals for biotech crops for import, food and feed use and for release into the environment since 1996.
For more information on this year’s report, visit www.isaaa.org.
Genetic engineering can lead to beneficial advances in human nutrition and the fight against world hunger, according to the top science advisor to Pope Benedict XVI.
“Thanks to the recent advances in genomics, proteomics and metabolomics, it has become possible to direct biological evolution in order to better fulfill our needs for a healthy nutrition as a contribution to medically relevant improvements,” said Dr. Werner Arber, president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which advises the pope on scientific matters. Arber is a Swiss molecular biologist who shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology in 1978. He is the first non-Catholic to serve as head of the academy.
“Our Academy concluded that recently established methods of preparing transgenic organisms follow natural laws of biological evolution and bear no risks anchored in the methodology of genetic engineering,” he recently told the pope and an audience of bishops meeting in Rome. “The beneficial prospects for improving widely-used nutritional crops can be expected to alleviate the still-existing malnutrition and hunger in the human population of the developing world.” Read more.
A bizarre study by French researchers claiming ill effects on laboratory rats fed genetically modified corn and given water spiked with herbicide has been rejected by American scientists who questioned the motives and methods of the authors.
“This study appears to be without scientific merit,” said Dr. Martina Newell-McGloughlin, director of the International Biotechnology Program at the University of California/Davis. “The problem here appears to be with the experimental design,” she said. “Whether it was deliberately devised to attain the desired outcome remains to be seen.”
“This is not an innocent scientific publication,” Dr. Bruce M. Chassy, professor emeritus of food science at the University of Illinois, said. “It is a well-planned and cleverly orchestrated media event. The study was designed to produce exactly what was observed and it was deliberately allowed to continue until grotesque and fear-evoking tumors developed. The way the study was conducted, including the treatment of the animals, especially those who developed tumors as these rats are known to do, raises serious ethical concerns and profound questions of possible scientific misconduct.” READ MORE »